The Miss Firecracker Contest
January 25, 26, February 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 10, 2008

Carnelle ScottJen Kurtz
Popeye JacksonNichi McFarlane
Elain RutledgeCindy "Syd" Stauffer
Delmount WilliamsKeith M Moser
Mac SamMark Nathanioule
Tessy MahoneySuzy Gunkle
Production Staff
DirectorClair M Freeman
Stage ManagerGary Boyer
CostumerNancy Mikkelsen
Set Design and ConstructionMike Quinn
Set ConstructionMike Quinn, Ralph Montesano
Lighting DesignDan Lewis
Production ChairClair M. Freeman
Public Relations & Publicity ChairCheryl Wenhold
Production PhotosMike Dorn
Front of HouseVicki Montesano
Box OfficePaulette Moyer and Walter Schubert
2008 Ad ProgramMaggie Haney-O'Leary
Poster Graphic/Program Cover ArtD. Scott Lyttle
Special Thanks
Tina Boyer, Syd Stauffer, Bill Mutimer, Pam Wallace, Crowded Kitchen Players

Cast Photos
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Other Images


Lively 'Firecracker' more character study than comedy

By Dave Howell
Special to The Morning Call

January 29, 2008

Pennsylvania Playhouse is going south for the winter. Director Clair Freeman is taking audiences to a small Mississippi town for "The Miss Firecracker Contest."

On the surface, "The Miss Firecracker Contest" is a mixture of comedy and Southern gothic, and there are elements of both. But it is actually more of a character study. Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Beth Henley, best known for her Broadway hit, "Crimes of the Heart," explores hopes, dreams, and self-acceptance, although some of the ruminations are clichéd and not fully developed.

As the play opens, Carnelle Scott (Jen Kurtz) is practicing her dance routine. She would rather be known as "Miss Firecracker" than "Miss Hot Tamale," a name she has earned around town for her less than pristine reputation.

Other visitors arrive. Nearsighted Popeye Jackson (Nichi McFarlane) helps Carnelle with her costume.

Carnelle's cousin Elain (Cindy Stauffer), a former teenaged Miss Firecracker, shows up as a refugee from her conventional marriage and two sons. And Cousin Delmount (Keith M. Moser) appears after being released from a mental institution, hoping to sell the family home where Carnelle lives.

In Act Two, as Carnelle nervously prepares for the contest, she runs into former lover Mac Sam (Mark Nathanioule), a philosophical carnival worker, and Terry Mahoney (Suzy Gunkle), a pageant coordinator who has her eye on Delmount. Meanwhile, a romance begins between Delmount and Popeye.

At two-and-a-half hours, "Firecracker" is a bit long. For those expecting a comedy, there are not many laughs. The cast plays with energy and panache. Kurtz contrasts helplessness and a natural attractiveness, keeping you guessing about her chances. The other cast members are quirky or downright strange without going over the top, although some do not come off as true Southern eccentrics.

A "The Miss Firecracker Contest," 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday, through Feb. 10, Pennsylvania Playhouse, Illick's Mill Road, Bethlehem. Tickets: $20; $17, seniors and children under 19, Friday and Sunday. 610-865-6665,

Dave Howell is a freelance writer.

Jodi Duckett, Asst. Entertainment Editor 610-820-6704

Copyright © 2008, The Morning Call


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